TBI Q&A: Jonathan Smith

It pays to be an ‘artistic geek’ when co-ordinating the logistics, artistic look and community engagement of the Auckland Pride Parade.


It pays to be an ‘artistic geek’ when co-ordinating the logistics, artistic look and community engagement of the Auckland Pride Parade.

Jonathan Smith stops for a quick TBI QnA while counting down to see the designs on paper come to life on the 1.5km stage that is Ponsonby Road.

The Parade, on Saturday February 16, is a highlight of the Auckland Pride Festival celebrating the arts, culture and identity of our diverse LGBTI communities.

During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?

Most of my artistic thoughts happen about 4am when my mind has rested during the night. Plays havoc with my sleep pattern.

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?

Stylish but not trendy and always well tailored and fresh

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?

The moment we move from a rehearsal hall, normally a community hall, into the theatre. This was the case with Queen of the Whole Universe however with the Pride Parade the thrill will be when all the designs on paper are placed on Ponsonby Road, a 1.5 km stage.

How does your environment affect your work?

My creative thinking is best inspired in one of two different environments. Either the serene atmosphere of bush and sea like Waiheke Island or the bustle of a big city such as New York.

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?

I am called an artistic geek which is a compliment I have been told. I have the ability to do both equally as well.

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?

If you have a vision don’t allow anybody or anything to prevent you from fulfilling the vision

Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?

10 shows / 9 years of Queen of the Whole Universe – I am so very proud of this achievement.

Who or what has inspired you recently?

My partner Kevin inspires me continually. He is my strength, my bouncing board, my listener and my inspiration.

Tell us a bit about your background.

Left school with no career direction. Worked for the BNZ and Post Office then travelled to London (my birth place) when I was 19. Realised I was gay. That was hard when you are schooled in Te Aroha. Was so inspired by the HUGE British Airways sales shop in Regent Street that I made a promise to myself that I would be working there one day and I did. Two years later with no travel experience I started a fabulous career with British Airways.

10 years later returned to New Zealand and worked in the travel industry and finally with Air New Zealand. Have retrained in various careers since including Career Counselling and now operating my own Boutique Event Management Company, Eventimento.

Tell us about your role as the Pride Parade co-ordinator?

This is a massive role. Far bigger than I had realised. I am so thankful that over the past 10 years I have gained so much experience and expertise or I would have collapsed within the first month. My role is two fold which works well for an artistic geek. I focus on the logistics of the parade, i.e. road closure H$S, Police, Security, Event Permits etc. The other main task is the artistic look of the parade and community engagement.

What are some of the creative highlights of this year’s Festival and Parade?

The creative highlights of the parade have been designing the Pride Parade Lead Float and the Pride Remembrance Float and working with the community on creative ideas. I have taken a totally different look at the Remembrance Float. In previous parades it has focused on HIV/AIDS. We had huge losses back then from the virus. This year with the parade theme as One Community I am acknowledging all those people we have lost from HIV, Breast Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Youth suicide.

What combination of people and resources are involved in putting it on?

Massive. I have two very strong and dedicated volunteers in senior roles who work on registrations for the parade and the volunteer team. This is part of a very focused senior team of 12. These are all people that have worked with me on QWU for the past few years. This is part of a 120 volunteer team that I like to call the ‘Pride Parade Crew’

Tell us a bit about your other recent and upcoming projects.

My next major event is the possibility contracting QWU to a Australian HIV/AIDS Charity for a 10 year period of fundraising.

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?

I have had three very exciting careers and don’t regret any of them …. Moving forward .. there is one more thing I wish to try ….. watch this spacey

What place is always with you, wherever you go?

Angkor Wat (my meditation place) and Valencia (my second home)

What's the best way to listen to music, and why?

Ear phones at my computer finding new music for either QWU or Buffy & Bimbo

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?

A new wig for us drag artists

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?

Learn to say NO and don’t feel guilty afterwards

What’s great about today?

Being alive and living well with HIV

What’s your big idea for 2013?

Surviving the parade, 3 weeks with my man Kevin in New York and our WEDDING!!

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

14 Feb 2013

The Big Idea Editor Cathy Aronson is a journalist, photo journalist and digital editor.

Story / Management & Admin, Screen & Sound
So you want to get your band noticed or even on a festival bill. How do you do it?
Peter Baker, owner/operator for Rhythmethod Distribution and general manager for digital music aggregator DRM.
Story / Digital & Technology, Music, Screen & Sound
Want to get all that great music you've created out to the masses? It's time to look at distribution.
Story / Management & Admin
A new free online tool for businesses is shining a light on the creative sector with accessible and understandable data.